Two models show off JulieApple Handbags.
  • Photo by Leigh Moose/ Side Yard Studios Photography
  • Two models show off JulieApple Handbags.

By 8 p.m. or so, the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh was fully stocked with spectators last Friday evening. They were all in attendance not for art, but for fashion.

On this night, Redress Raleigh took over the museum for its fourth annual Eco-Fashion Show, where eco-friendly designers are given the opportunity to show off the fruits of their labor. And after previously doing the show at such spots as Flanders Gallery and Edenton Street United Methodist Church, the people behind Redress thought the CAM Raleigh would be a perfect venue.

“At CAM, we feel like it fits with our aesthetic as well,” says Eco-Fashion Show co-producer Beth Stewart, “because it’s a beautiful place but it’s a renovated space. So, this used to be a different type of building and they’re re-using it.”

Eleven designers were on the bill, many of them local, culled from applications that were sent through the Redress Raleigh website. These designers also appreciated Redress’s stylishly green mission.

“I just really loved the concept of this particular show,” says Melissa Lowery, the designer behind SSD Jewelry, “because they incorporate recycled and upcycled materials, found materials, and I use a lot of that in my work.”

Started in 2008, Redress Raleigh has specialized in proving to Raleigh and other Triangle residents that eco-friendly fashion can be washable, wearable and accessible. They also put on shows to benefit other organizations. This year’s charity is ABAN (A Ban Against Neglect), which produces upcycled bags, wallets and other products using the discarded plastic bags that litter of the streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

Redress has also been known to put on other events apart from the fashion show. In March, they had a benefit show at Kings Barcade, featuring such acts as Kooley High’s Charlie Smarts and hip-hop band The Balance, to raise money to put the fashion show together.

“We do like to do some networking and fun events related to the eco-fashion show,” says Stewart. “But we mainly try to do more educational events than anything else. And the eco-fashion show is our main thing.”

The show had quite an eclectic collection of designers on hand. Leopold Designs had various female models saunter down the catwalk in hand-dyed silk, while the sophisticated Kendal Leonard and the vintage Rocket Betty both had their own ideas of what should pass for bridal wear.

Perhaps the most refreshing part of the evening was the diverse selection of models that were pouting and strutting for their respective designers. JulieApple Handbags, the first designer of the evening, had women (and a few little girls) model the trendy bags. SSD Jewelry had both men and women get on the runway. JBelle Designs and Leopold Designs features many middle-aged models for their sections.

Model Ashton Edens takes the runway wearing SSD Jewelry.

There were young models who appeared to take their modeling careers thing quite seriously. But there were others, like Raleigh-based secretary/receptionist Cortney Rice, who was doing it on a lark.

“I think to go into the professional world, you gotta start really early now,” says Rice, who has done fashion charity shows at such Raleigh nightspots as Mirage and Solas. “I think they get you at 16, 17 – start you out early. So, I’m kind of past my prime. I’m 25, so I’m doing it for fun now.”

As for 16-year-old Raleigh model Ashton Edens, ol’ girl is in it for the long haul.

“It was just for the fun at first,” says Edens. “And, now, I’m starting to get into it and auditioning for a lot of stuff.”

She finds walking down the runway at a Redress show to be a step up from previous shows she’s done. “It’s a lot cleaner, I guess. It’s more refreshing, you could say. It’s not as clumped and it’s not as dark.”

Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane addresses the crowd gathered Friday night at CAM Raleigh.

Eventually, the show got love from the spectators, especially those who are immersed in the fashion world.

“I was surprised because, a lot of times, it’s hit-or-miss in terms of kind of the skill level of designers,” says D.C.-bred stylist Stephanie Ford, who relocated to Raleigh from Paris. “But I was really surprised and impressed with a lot of the different designers.

The only minus she had was the ticket price.

“I think $50 is kind of high, on the high end, for a ticket price. I mean, up to $35 is kind of reasonable.”

In the end, the environmentally conscious fashionistas of Redress Raleigh did what they sought out to do. To paraphrase Project Runway’s dapper-ass Tim Gunn, they made it work.

Says Stewart: “Really, the main three things [for us] are to help raise money for charities, to help expose local artists who like to incorporate recycling and up-cycling materials and to help eco-conscious practices with their businesses. So, that’s really cool.”